The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The sweltering days around the Fourth of July were perfect for city kids to pop open a fire hydrant to cool off, but not so great for expensive instruments in apartments that are not air-conditioned.
That’s what Lexington native Jacob Yates was fretting July 7 in his hot digs near the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he is a student. He was spending the summer playing cello and keyboard for Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati’s production of Next to Normal. Cast member Jessica Hendy suggested Yates bring his cello to her air-conditioned home.
“We just hung out all day, and we just started making music,” says Hendy, whose Broadway credits include Cats, Aida and Amour. “It was one of those random things.”
They started working on a rendition of Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory with a healthy dose of J.S. Bach thrown in. Then they decided to make a video of it with Hendy’s iPhone and post it on her YouTube page.
That black-and-white clip (above), with Yates playing in a backward baseball cap and a giraffe in the background, became a minor success.
“We both really like social networking, and we started getting a significant number of views really fast,” Yates said.
Hendy elaborates, “We both posted it on our Facebook pages, and we had so many shares from friends and acquaintances who were posting it on their walls, we thought, ‘Oh, maybe we should do another one.’”
Their duo, J String, was born.
Sunday night, they bring their live show to Natasha’s Bistro and Bar in Lexington with more than a dozen pop songs set for voice and cello including the summer of 2012’s No. 1 earworm, Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe.
Brooklyn, 7, will be an understudy for five roles including Molly, the littlest orphan who has several featured moments in the classic 1977 musical by Charles Strouse, Thomas Meehan and Martin Charnin.
Annie is the first hit in several months of auditioning in New York for Brooklyn and her older sister Sydney, 9.
Their mother, Angie Shuck, says that all three of their daughters, including 6-year-old Raleigh, have shown a knack for musical theater and worked with the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s Academy for Creative Excellence, a musical-theater training program for school-age children. Brooklyn was seen recently in the UK Opera Theatre’s Grand Night for Singing showtune revue in June and singing I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus at last month’s Celebration of Song at Victorian Square.
With the experience Brooklyn and Sydney were gaining, Angie Shuck said they decided to take a shot at New York stages under the guidance of Lexington-based manager Peggy Stamps and her SquarePeg management group.
“They went up there, and they were naturals,” Angie Shuck says. “So we decided we would give them that opportunity.”
Stamps says the girls have been auditioning for 10 months and made it into the final rounds of auditions for several shows, including The Grinch and Godspell 2032.
Shuck says she was called last month about the Annie audition and had 22 hours to get Brooklyn to New York.
Brooklyn is a second grader at Garden Springs Elementary School, but of course will have to move to New York, at least while she is in Annie.
Nicholasville farm girl Kelly Casey says she auditioned for American Idol so friends and family would stop bugging her to audition. It seems like they had the right idea, because she’s going to Hollywood.
“I’ve always kind of been told that I should audition, and I never have in the past,” Casey says in a video on the Idol website. “This is my first time, so I was just kind of trying to get people off of my back about doing it and, wow, I got a golden ticket. It’s incredible.”
Casey advanced out of the Baton Rouge auditions, which were broadcast Thursday night on Fox. She was not seen on the episode, and there are several more audition cities to be shown before Hollywood episodes next month, which will be the next chance to see Casey compete.
As a two-time Miss Kentucky contestant, Casey is no stranger to competition, and she has maintained an active singing career in Central Kentucky. In the Idol video, she says her rural upbringing will be a key to her success on the show.
She says, “I think I’m the next American Idol because growing up in a rural area and living on a farm in Kentucky has taught me a great work ethic, which I can convert into music, because no matter how cold it is outside or what’s going on, if it’s Christmas, the animals still have to be taken care of.”
Casey’s Facebook fan page lists her as a country and Christian musician with favorites and influences including Shania Twain and Martina McBride. Her favorite Idol contestant is fairly easy to guess: Carrie Underwood.
““She’s extremely successful, and it’s the same genre of music that I have grown up listening to,” Casey says. “I love country music.”
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich